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Refrigerant

Contamination
&
Leak Detection
Objectives

 Identifying Refrigerant

 Types of Contamination

 Finding Leaks
Refrigerant Identifier
 Why is it important?
 Mixing of refrigerants can cause damage
to A/C components
 An identifier tests the purity of refrigerant
 Purity must be at least 98% to reuse
 Newer alternative refrigerants have
increased the occurrence of contamination
Refrigerant Identifier
 Connect hose to
low side of A/C
system
 Identifier will show
“R-12”, “R134a”,
or “unknown”
 Reclaim only if
refrigerant is
identified correctly
Types of Contamination
 Sealant Contamination
Seal Sweller
softens the seals and o-rings in the system
causing them to expand
Problem?
Stop Leak
chemically reacts with moisture to form an
epoxy
Problem?
Types of Contamination
 Contamination of sealer can damage A/C
components, as well as recovery and
charging equipment
 Refrigerant identifiers do not detect
sealers
 A separate identifier must be used
Types of Contamination
 Air Contamination
Usually occurs when the system is
opened to service components
May occur from a system leak
 An improperly operating low-pressure
switch can cause air to be drawn into
the system
 Atmospheric pressure exceeds system
pressure and a vacuum is created
Types of Contamination
 If air contamination is found, the system
must be evacuated and recharged
 If a leak caused the air, the system will
hold very little or no vacuum during the
recharge process
Types of Contamination
 Moisture Contamination
Often occurs when the system is
opened to service components
May be due to a failed receiver-drier or
accumulator
Whenever the system is opened, lines
and components must be sealed off
immediately to prevent moisture from
entering the system
Types of Contamination
 Water reacts with refrigerant to form
hydrochloric acid
 Hydrochloric acid is very corrosive and
damages all metal parts including
copper, aluminum and steel
 Maximum allowable moisture content in
the A/C system is 10 ppm
 One drop of water in a 2 lb system
equals 60 ppm (6 times the allowable
amount)
Types of Contamination
 Preventing  Uncap and install the
Moisture receiver-drier or
accumulator last when
Contamination
replacing
 Cap off all lines and
components
immediately after
opening system
 Avoid working
around water or in
humid conditions
Types of Contamination
 Preventing Moisture Contamination
 Keep refrigerant oil and system dyes in a
dry clean place
 Use clean tools when working on the A/C
system
 Only charge system with a known good
refrigerant
 Pull vacuum on the system before
charging to remove any moisture present
Types of Contamination
 Moisture Removal  The vacuum pump
 A vacuum pump must removes the moisture
be used to remove from the system in a
moisture from the vapor state
system
 Pump is connected to
both the high and low
pressure lines of the
system through the
service valves
 Vacuum lowers the
boiling point of water
and causes it to boil
Types of Contamination
 Moisture Removal
25-30 inches of vacuum should be
maintained on the system for 20-30
minutes
The pump should then be turned off and
the system monitored for 5-10 minutes
to see if vacuum is lost
 A loss of vacuum indicates a leak in the
system
If excessive moisture is found in the
system, the receiver-drier or
Leak Detection
Leak Testing
 Visual Inspection
 A/C leaks often leave
refrigerant oil
deposits that can be
seen during
inspection
 Closely inspect o-ring
connections and
component fittings
 Look for traces of oil
on the compressor
clutch indicating a
leaking compressor
shaft seal
Leak Testing
 Soapy Water
 Effective and cheap
for accessible areas
 50/50 mix of dish
soap and water in a
spray bottle
 Bubbles will form
anywhere
refrigerant is
leaking
 Does not find leaks
that are losing less
than 40 oz per year
Leak Testing
 Visible Dye
 Specific for refrigerant
type (R12; R134a) unless
otherwise specified
 May be injected into a
system under pressure
 System must have at
least 50 psi of pressure
to accurately find leaks
 After the vehicle is
driven for a couple days
with the A/C operated,
the dye will visibly show
at the leak
Leak Testing
 Fluorescent Dye
 Specific for
refrigerant type (R12;
R134a)
 Injected into the
system
 Dye shows up quicker
than visible dye, but
vehicle may still have
to be driven a while
 Dye shows up as
bright yellow under a
black light where a
leak is present
Leak Testing
 Electronic Leak
Detector
 Able to detect as little
as ½ ounce loss per
year
 Makes an audible
sound when the
probe comes in
contact with
refrigerant
 Since refrigerant is
heavier than air, it is
usually detected on
the bottom side of
Leak Testing
 Electronic Leak
Detector
– Select (1) for R134a or
(2) for R12
– Adjust sensing level
until a steady tick is
heard
– Run probe along lines
and fittings, starting on
the top and working
down
– Sensitivity may have to
be adjusted to pinpoint
small leaks
Areas to Check for Leaks

 Hose and lines


 Fitting connection points
 Evaporator
 Condenser
 Compressor seals
 Receiver dryer/accumulator
 Pressure switches
 Service fittings
Component Review
Component Operation
 Compressor
 Circulates refrigerant through the system;
compresses low-side vapor (15-35 psi) to
high-pressure (150-280 psi) vapor
 Condenser
 Removes heat from compressed
refrigerant; high-pressure vapor changes
to high pressure liquid as it cools
Component Operation
 Receiver-drier
 Stores liquid refrigerant; removes moisture
from the system; located on the high-
pressure side
 Accumulator
 Holds excess liquid refrigerant; removes
moisture from the system; located on the
low-pressure side
Component Operation
 Expansion Valve
 Meters refrigerant into the evaporator
through a variable orifice; separates the
high and low sides; used on systems with
a receiver-drier
 Orifice Tube
 Meters refrigerant into the evaporator
through a fixed orifice; seperates the high
and low sides; used on systems with an
accumulator
Component Operation
 Evaporator
 Picks up heat from the vehicle cabin and
carries it to the compressor; low-pressure
liquid refrigerant changes to low-pressure
vapor
 Pressure Switches
 Cuts power to the compressor clutch if
pressures exceed or fall below a
predetermined amount; safety device